Durban – In a big mix-up on Friday night, a young badmington player from Durban High School was named KwaZulu-Natal Sportsman of the Year instead of Olympic swimmer Chad le Clos.
However, the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation, which organised the event in Durban, denied there had been an error, blaming the media for getting it wrong.
But journalist Tommy Ballantyne, who was on the judging panel, said the decision to give Le Clos the prize had been unanimous and Reneshan Naidoo, 18, had been a runner-up.
Ballantyne used the list of winners, sent to him from the department (and which he checked by phone), to announce Le Clos’s victory in the Independent on Saturday. As he knew who the winner was, he did not go to the function.
However, at the awards ceremony, it was Naidoo’s name that flashed on the screen and the teenager went on stage, beaming and surprised to get the award.
When Ballantyne’s article appeared Naidoo’s father, Van Naidoo, e-mailed the department to find out what was going on. He also e-mailed Ballantyne’s editor to complain, accusing him of inaccuracy.
Last night he forwarded these e-mails to The Mercury. One e-mail from the department said: “It is indeed an unfortunate incident, which we have already addressed with the paper and will be rectified accordingly.
“I will touch base with you on Monday to advise on developments and other possible means that can be explored to make sure Reneshan gets the recognition he deserves in the media.
“Thank you for the feedback and please accept my sincerest apologies about the misprint. I assure you that this is being dealt with.”
Ballantyne in the meantime had knocked off his own e-mail to the department: “You say you were all caught off guard on Friday night when the wrong name was announced on the video and there was no option but to proceed with the awards. The mistake, it appears, was made by someone on the production team who put the video together.”
Sandile Qwabe, of the department, confirmed to The Mercury that a mistake had been made by the production team and that Le Clos’s name had been in the script but that Naidoo’s name had come up on the screen.
“There will be a meeting with all the stakeholders to try and remedy the situation,” he said.
Last night Le Clos said he did not want to comment as he had no idea who the winners were, but he was happy with his awards.
Naidoo referred The Mercury to his mother, Nisha Naidoo, who said she did not want the department to say they were sorry but to rectify the situation and give her son the recognition he deserved.